After some 91 starts, which included 11 wins, 28 placings and over $110,000 in earnings, the Todd Payne trained Newcastle Dancer has retired in the most fitting way possible on Saturday, recording a victory on his home track of Inverell.
The 10-year-old, who was guided by apprentice jockey Courtney Bellamy, showed everyone watching that he still had plenty left in the tank, boulting in to win by six lengths when contesting the 1100m Benchmark 50 Handicap.
After the strong win, it could have been easy for Payne to think, ‘just one more start’, but the experienced trainer called time on his old stager’s career, citing the health and welfare of Newcastle Dancer as his primary concern.
“He has been too good a horse to us, and I don’t want to bust him,” Payne said.
“He could run around next Saturday but I couldn’t forgive myself if anything happened to him.
“So, I called it last week, and I said, ‘win or lose, I would give him one more run’, and we were just lucky enough to send him out on a winning note.”
The Court Command gelding has been a goer for connections, with Payne picking up Newcastle Dancer for $1000 back in 2017, after he had started 15 times, registering two wins and five placings in Queensland.
In the next four years with the Inverell stable, Newcastle Dancer won nine more times and ran countless placings, recording victories at Inverell (3), Talmoi, Goondiwindi, Mungindi, Barraba, Texas and Armidale.
“I trained for a bloke who bought him, he had something like 14 or 15 starts for a win or two when I got him, and I trained him and gave him half a dozen starts and the owner said ‘no, no, no, he’s not what we are looking for’,” Payne explained.
“I liked him, so I paid $1000 for him and haven’t looked back because he is just a tough horse that loves running.”
Payne said watching Newcastle Dancer win at his last run was as pleasing as it gets being a country trainer and he admitted retirement would be tough on both parties.
“It was pretty emotional and there was a tear in my eye when he straightened up and he put four (lengths) on them pretty quick,” Payne said.
“It’s a sad day, but he has been in work for nearly two years and that’s what makes it so hard retiring him; he loves it, he stands in the corner and sulks when he is not in work, but it was time.”
Now, Newcastle Dancer will live the life of a family pony, spending his days taking Payne’s children, Rylie and Beau, on rides accross the family farm and on the boundary of the National Park.
“He is a lovely horse and part of the family, and he will never go anywhere,” Payne said.
“He goes over the jumps. The kids, they hack him around the paddock and love riding him.
“Plus, we are right on the edge of the National Park, so they go on these 6km trail rides on him and others we have down to the waterfall.”
Newcastle Dancer’s absence from the track might take the Inverell stable some time to get used to, but it helps that their team is in good form, with Hey Wayne also winning recently when breaking his maiden at Armidale on October 7.
The lightly raced five-year-old is in action at Grafton today, contesting the 1106m Class One Handicap, while Trogir is coming off a good Armidale trial win and will race at Armidale on Saturday in the 1100m Benchmark 50 Handicap.
Payne said it was an exciting time for him, his partner Kyia Bodsworth, and their family, after moving to a new property just out of Inverell.
“It’s good. We’ve just bought this place. We are in the process of buildng a bigger set of stables because the horses are a lot happier away from everything, where they can just be horses,” Payne said.
“We hope to have most of them in work out here down the track.”